In November 2019, Rajinikanth made a remark that raised eyebrows. He was at the launch of friend/actor/politician Kamal Haasan‘s new office in Alwarpet, Chennai. Speaking to the press after the event, Rajini said, “They [ruling party/BJP] are trying to paint both Thiruvalluvar and me, saffron. Neither of us will fall into this trap.” Over the years, Rajinikanth’s political flip-flops have left his fans, his detractors, political commentators and the political class confused and frustrated. Was it in anticipation of his film Darbar (released in January 2020) that Rajini sought to distance himself from the BJP and the right, or was this his natural position?
Having called his brand of politics, “aanmeega arasiyal” (spiritual politics), Rajini is yet to take the full plunge in politics. With the assembly elections in TN just a year away (in 2021), others have begun work in earnest, while Rajini is still playing the tease. DMK has joined hands with Prashant Kishore’s IPAC, Kamal Haasan, after an unusually quiet few weeks, is back. He extended his support to TM Krishna over the controversy around the launch of his book, Sebastian & Sons. Though Kamal isn’t making direct political speeches yet, his MNM atleast seems to be active.
In 2020, Rajini has gone back to tacitly supporting the ruling party’s position in almost all matters. Last month, Rajini courted controversy with his remarks at Thuglak magazine’s 50th-anniversary celebration in the presence of RSS’ S Gurumurthy. Rajinikanth said Cho was the only editor brave enough to cover Periyar’s rally where images of Rama, in the nude, were carried out in procession. Rajini later refused to apologise when Tamil groups demanded it.
Yesterday, The Hindu reported that, “The Income Tax department recently withdrew all proceedings against actor Rajinikanth for alleged concealment of income because the penalty to be recovered was less than ₹1 crore. Records show that they had chosen to levy a minimum penalty of ₹66.21 lakh, while the maximum penalty would have been ₹1.98 crore.”
Speaking to the press today, Rajinikanth answered an array of questions. Summons have been issued to him by the commission led by Retired Judge, Aruna Jagadesan, probing Thoothukudi shooting. The actor has been summoned for his remarks that the firing and the death were because of “anti-social elements” who were involved in violence and burned public property. He said, “I haven’t received the notice yet, but will cooperate fully when I receive them.”
Answering a question on the ongoing NPR/NRC/CAA protests, he said, “NPR is very essential. In 2010, Congress did it. It was also done in 2015. In 2020, we have to do NPR. We should know who is a local, who is a foreigner, shouldn’t we? It is very, very essential. It must be done. I don’t know what other people’s problem with this is. NCR(sic) has not started yet. When it’s done, we will see the draft, proceedings, and then see what it entails. They have clearly explained CAA. Definitely, Indian people have no problems because of CAA. It is about deciding whether or not to give citizenship to people from other neighbouring countries.”
He then said, “They are scaring people by saying that this is a threat for Muslims. How will this threaten Muslims? During partition Muslims who are here now, chose this as their janmabhoomi, their nation. They have chosen to live and die here. How can we send them out of this country? If something like this happens, I, Rajinikanth, will first lend my voice in their support. There is no threat to them. Some political parties are doing this for their self-interest. To students, my advice is to fully research an issue, speak to your professors and elders, before getting down to protest. Otherwise, protestors will use you.” The actor also said, “He was an honest income tax payer.”
Whether Rajinikanth will continue down this path of toeing the government line, or if we will take a contrarian stand again, will become clear ahead of the release of his next film, which is ironically being produced by the Sun group. The film is being directed by Siruthai Siva, and is expected to hit the screens towards the end of 2020. There are also rumours that Kamal Haasan’s Raaj Kamal Films International will produce a film starring Rajinikanth and that it may be directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj.
If things go as planned, rival politicians who all want to win the elections in 2021, will be financing each other through films over the course of this year in TN.